Republican Del. Martin G. Madden upset 12-year Democratic Del. Virginia M. Thomas yesterday to move up to the state Senate, as the GOP and Democrats battled to a near draw for control of Howard's General Assembly delegation.
Election victories by Mr. Madden and incumbent Republican Sen. Christopher J. McCabe ensure that Republicans will control Howard's three-member Senate delegation, while the eight-member House of Delegates delegation will be evenly split between the GOP and Democrats.
Democrat Edward J. Kasemeyer, a former western Howard state senator who was ousted by Mr. McCabe in 1990 by about 1,000 votes, made a successful return to politics, defeating Republican David P. Maier by a similarly narrow margin. Mr. Kasemeyer, a west Columbia resident, will be the lone Democrat in Howard's Senate delegation.
Mr. McCabe won about 55 percent of the vote in holding off a strong challenge from Democrat James P. Mundy, a Glenelg High School teacher who had aggressively campaigned for the District 14 seat for about two years.
Howard Republican activists, who celebrated the party's strong showing at their Holiday Inn headquarters in Jessup, hailed Mr. Madden's narrow victory as a monumental achievement against stiff odds.
"He just did the impossible," said Carol Arscott, a Howard Republican Central Committee member. "[The state legislature] drew that district for Ginny Thomas. It was custom-made for her."
Mr. Madden, a one-term delegate, said the differences in the race were his opposition to tax increases, his support for a leaner state government, his strong record on environmental issues and his straightforward approach. He collected about 51 percent of the votes.
Ms. Thomas, who ascended to an environmental committee leadership position during her 12 years in the House, attributed the defeat to "last-minute distortions of my record" in campaign literature distributed by Mr. Madden and on the victor's focus on taxation issues.
Ms. Thomas, a Columbia resident, said she knew she'd have difficulty defending her support of a variety of tax increases to make up a deficit during the 1992 recession.
"I knew that would cost me" in the election, Ms. Thomas said. "It was a fiscally responsible thing to do."
She added that county residents seem to want cuts in spending but may be unprepared for the consequences. "We'll see what happens," she said.
Ms. Thomas' east Columbia 13A delegate district was kept intact during the 1992 redistricting, but Mr. Madden lost Elkridge, a conservative base of support, from his 13B delegate district. The heavily Democratic District 13 includes east Columbia, Fulton, Highland, Savage, North Laurel and northern Prince George's County.
Mr. McCabe attributed his win to a message of "honesty in government," which he stressed throughout his campaign. "I demonstrated to people that I'm an independent legislator and that we need that kind of person in Annapolis," said Mr. McCabe, who will represent Ellicott City, a small portion of west Columbia, western Howard and northeastern Montgomery County. "I'm a person who doesn't get tied to different groups and believes the state has to be financially responsible."
Mr. Mundy, who tried to paint Mr. McCabe as an ineffective legislator whose positions were too conservative for the district, said: "The message we carried out as Democrats was rejected. Obviously the Republican message carries weight."
In District 12, Mr. Kasemeyer said he won with about 51 percent of the vote despite the Republican party's seemingly more popular message during this election season. The district includes west Columbia, Elkridge and southwestern Baltimore County.
"The voters generally believe the Republican Party is more responsive to their needs. We have to make them understand we have something to offer, too."
Mr. Maier chalked up the narrow loss to his poor showing in Columbia, an area he virtually abandoned to concentrate on more conservative areas of the district.